Subject: RN: Light sentence for dark crimes

Radio Netherlands

Light sentence for dark crimes

by our Internet desk, 5 August 2003

East Timor´s capital Dili in ruins, 1999

- listen to the interview 3´48

The Indonesian general who commanded troops in East Timor during its 1999 independence turmoil has been sentenced to three years in jail for crimes against humanity.

Major-General Adam Damiri, the last of 18 people to be tried by a special human rights court in Jakarta, was the highest-ranking officer charged in relation to the violence in East Timor. In the 1999 bloodshed, militias closely associated with the Indonesia army - which did not want East Timor to gain its independence - were responsible for killing about 1000 people.

Human rights groups have already dismissed the Indonesian court as a mockery. Damien Kingsbury, an academic and former observer of East Timor's independence vote, says in this interview with Newsline's Perro de Jong that Damiri's light sentence is regrettable but hardly surprising:

"Adam Damiri was one of the key officers in terms of organising the training of the militias in East Timor. He was responsible for the allocation of resources for training, for the financing of the militias, and was part of a group of senior officers who oversaw the attempted subversion of the ballot process, and the mayhem and destruction and death that followed."

RN: "But isn't this, by definition, the kind of involvement that's difficult to prove, because the TNI, the military, were simply turning a blind eye to what the militias were doing?"

"Well that's the common position and that was the view put by many of the apologists for the TNI, and indeed the TNI itself said at the time that it did not have control over the militias, that it wasn't responsible for them. Now the fact of the matter was that the whole process was very highly structured from the very beginning, the financing, the provision of weapons, the training, the organisation of the 13 militias, all followed standard military procedure, and was all very much part of the TNI's military process."

"The evidence for this has been released in a number of places now, the leaking of Australian intelligence documents of radio intercepts, transcripts of that, vast quantities of material; files and documents that we actually found in East Timor after the ballot, after the TNI had been pushed out by the international forces. There was overwhelming evidence, and I might say, having been one of the observers there at that time, we all got to see this, first-hand. With our own eyes we saw the TNI handing over weapons to the militia, literally in the street."

"There was no secret about the nature of the relationship. The militias were operating out of the TNI headquarters, out of the barracks. There was no question that they were anything other than a front-organisation for the TNI."

RN: "Three years is a very light sentence, then, and it's not the first time there have been accusations of a whitewash."

"The UN initially wanted to charge the officers responsible for the East Timor debacle. The Indonesian government essentially refused, under pressure from its own military, to hand over its own officers, and instead put forward this so-called compromise position where it would try them itself. However, the trials were always intended to divert attention from the seriousness of the offences, and the fact that the prosecutor even asked that [Damiri] be acquitted indicated what a farce this trial process has been. The prosecutor was anything but a prosecutor, he was more like an apologist for the TNI."

RN: "So what do the TNI verdicts ultimately say about the power and status of the military?"

"On one hand it could be seen to symbolise the return to political prominence of the TNI, [but] that might be overstating it because I think in regard to the trials, even if the political power of the TNI remained relatively weak, it probably still would have had the sorts of outcomes we have seen, whereby most people charged are acquitted, and the few guilty verdicts handed down have been relatively light sentences. The fact the TNI has reasserted its political power in the last few years has meant that any hope, any slim chance that justice could have been served by these trials was completely thrown out at that time."

Back to August menu
World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu